Monday, March 28, 2005

No to Balkanized Republics

"Reductio ad Hitlerum," by Ken Blanchard, South Dakota Politics, 27 March 2005, http://southdakotapolitics.blogs.com/south_dakota_politics/2005/week12/index.html#a0004101402.

SDP was kind enough to link to me a few days ago, which I guess is why I have to disagree with them today...

It is obviously a serious concern that free elections in Arabia might bring to power the worst sort, though it is equally obvious that the lack of elections keeps a lot of very nasty sorts in power. But I think that a little more analysis is in order.

Hitler seized power with this small plurality because there was no part of society that had the will to resist him. For precisely this reason, places like Iraq are better off for being ethnically and religiously diverse. One thing the Sunnis and Kurds and Shiites can agree on is that they don't want to be ruled by an autocrat of a different color. This can be a bulwark against a new tyranny.

Another lesson that 1932 teaches is that outside influences matter. The world should put every pressure it can bring to bear in order to ensure that the governments develop along liberal and constitutional lines. It is a pipe dream to believe that autocrats in the Middle East can create the conditions for future democracy. Its better to try to help them emerge now.


Ken draws the wrong lessons from Hitler's Rise to Power. The most important brake on a Hilterian direction for Iraq is the Basic Law's weak executive. Iraq's purposefully unstable National Assembly could not have given Hitler his powers. But more to Mr. Blanchard's point...

True ethnic diversity may be a good thing. But ethnic balkanization is not. You do not have an even mix of Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds throughout Iraq. You have a riven, trifurcating state where each ethnic group has a substantial majority in its own area. This leads to the worst sort of nationalism.

Nationalists are always the most virulent when other nations have a majority nearby. Hitler grew up on the borders of the German nation, Napoleon grew up on the borders of the French nation, etc. Iraq is a made-up state that contains the frontiers of three nations (Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, Kurdish). As long as it exists, it is a call to violence.

08:40 Posted in Blogosphere, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: balkanization

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Trifurcation of Iraq Continues

"The Trifurcation of Iraq Has Begun," by Tom Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 28 February 2005, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/001563.html.

"Sunni Powers Oppose Federalism in Western Iraq," by Mazen Ghazi, Assyrian International News Agency, 24 March 2005, http://www.aina.org/news/20050324135407.htm (from Informed Comment).

Remember Dr. Barnett's post on the falling-apart of Yugoslavia-on-the-Tigris Iraq?

Meanwhile, down south, there are some pretty out-in-the-open dreams about breaking off from the Sunni and Kurdish north. Some of this is a desire to take their oil and leave, which is natural, and some of it is desiring to be away from the real and potential violence elsewhere in Iraq, and that's even more natural. Being built around the port of Basra, there is likewise a stronger desire to connect up with the outside world. The election showing of the Shiite coalition will dampen this some, as the article points out, but it ain't going to go away. We're watching the same dynamics, often economically driven more than by ethnicity or religion, that dismembered the false state that was Yugoslavia. Iraq is a similarly odd historical creation by outsiders (Churchill had a big hand), and it may well have to devolve into smaller bits before it can come back together in larger ones.


medium_sunni_iraq.png
Proposed State for the Iraqi Sunnis


It rolls on

Leading Sunni powers took a swipe at calls for a federalism in western Iraq, warning this only plays into the hands of the occupation by contributing to slice the country.

"Such calls only serve the interests of the occupation and fuel sectarian strife by pitting Iraqis against one another," Mothana Harith Al-Dari, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), told IslamOnline.net on Thursday, March 24

Al-Anbar governor Fassal al-Ka'oud had proposed a federal rule in the predominantly Sunni western governorates of Saladin, Ninawa and Al-Anbar, to face up to the new political reality in the war-torn country.

...

Calls for federalism, however, were quickly endorsed by the Assyrian Democratic Movement, which wants a self-ruled Christian governorate in Ninawa plains.

"Christian villages in Ninawa plains want their own governorate to enhance their political, economic and administrative rights within the state," said Isac Isac, the movement's public relations officer.


If nations and states lined up in the Middle East, the proposed state would be part of Syria.

Maybe it will be.

As I Said, Liberating Shia

"Iraqi Shiism could topple the mullahs," by Cameron Khosrowshahi, International Herald Tribune, 24 March 2005, http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/2005/03/23/opinion/edkamran.html, (from American Future).

Hmmm... if only some blogger had written about Iran-Iraq ties increasing freedom before this...

Rather than worrying about Iran's influence over Iraq, we should be harnessing the strength of Iraq's newly empowered Shiites against the regime in Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, is cut from a different cloth from the ruling clerics in Tehran.

He is of the quietist tradition, which holds that mosque and state should be kept separate. There are already profound roots for this philosophy within Iran itself. It was the conventional thinking among the religious authorities of my grandfather's era and was the norm until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini politicized Iranian Shiism.

A major artery of information flow and exchange has existed between the two countries for centuries. As Iraq's democracy and civil society stabilize, more and more Iranians will travel to Najaf and Karbala as pilgrims and seminary students. The Iranian state can restrict movement, what its people say, read and write, and what they see and hear on radio, TV and the Internet. But it will never be able to curtail their right to perform the pilgrimage to Iraq, which is a religious duty. The ideas these pilgrims take back with them to Iran could be the beginnings of an authentic counterrevolution against the tyranny of the mosque.

Sistani's religious credentials and learning dwarf those of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his counterpart in Iran. There are many Iranians who would rather listen to the Iranian-born Sistani if he chooses to speak to them. Moreover, his call to freedom will be couched within a language they understand, that of tradition and religious scholarship.


The Iraq War is the engine for peaceful regime change in Tehran. The Shia are the natural allies of freedom. And everything else I have been saying for months.

08:15 Posted in Iran, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: shia

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Screwing for Love

"In Mideast, Shiites May Be Unlikely U.S. Allies," by Robin Wright, Washington Post, 16 March 2005, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38296-2005Mar15.html (from Barnett).

The anti-Iraqi Freedom poster shouted, "Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity."

I guess this makes it love.

A quarter-century after its first traumatic confrontation with the Shiite world, when the U.S. Embassy was seized in Iran, the United States is moving on several fronts to support, recognize or hold out the prospect of engagement with Islam's increasingly powerful minority.

The White House is now counting on a Shiite-dominated government to stabilize Iraq. In a tactical shift, the United States is indirectly reaching out to Iran, backing Europe's offer of economic incentives to get Tehran to surrender any nuclear weapons program.


I've been blogging on forcing common interests with Iran for a while. The WashPost takes a different angle: the Shia are forcing common with the U.S. Who seduced whom is an interesting question, but decreasingly important for this couple. When Bush began Shia, a democratizer met a democratic movement.

While Hezbollah may be my, and Bush's, kind of terrorists...

And in Lebanon, President Bush suggested yesterday, Washington might accept Hezbollah as a political party -- if it renounces terrorism, as the Palestine Liberation Organization did in 1988. "I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they're not [a terrorist organization] by laying down arms and not threatening peace," he said in a joint appearance with Jordan's King Abdullah.


Wright reminds us that even super-friend Dawa was once on the outs

Shiite extremism in the 1980s embodied the main terrorist threat to the United States, as Shiite groups in Lebanon blew up two U.S. embassies and a Marine compound, and later seized dozens of Western hostages. In Kuwait, Iraq's Shiite Dawa movement simultaneously bombed the U.S. and French embassies as well as Western businesses.


In Ba'athi Iraq the nation was run by a Sunni minority -- today in Ba'athi Syria the state is controlled by the schismatic Alawite sect. A legacy of the Mandate System was rule by the few -- Bush's legacy will be rule of the many.

20:05 Posted in Greater Syria, Iran, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: shia

Good News from Basra

"Two Car Bombings of US Troops: Iraqi Politics Still Unsettled," by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, 19 March 2005, http://www.juancole.com/2005/03/two-car-bombings-of-us-troops-iraqi.html.

Dr. Cole has a rare, uplifting set of stories from southern Iraq:

Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that there is a big strike by students and professors at Basra University, protesting the incursions onto the campus of members of the Sadr Movement, who are attempting to establish control over the university and its style of life.


Great! True university protests and actual political debate in Iraq. And over something that effects Iraqis every day. People power is not just for ending hollow regimes like Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon -- it is also part of everyday democracy.

It also says that a technical and architectural team from Iran is visiting Basra, having been invited by the city authorities to come help with reconstruction


More good news. This is further conrete proof of our successful efforts to force common interests with Iran. Tehran is a natural regional leader and one of the best regimes in the region. Democracy-wise, it is about where Britain was a century ago (in other words, centuries ahead of Jordan and Kuwait and aeons away from Saudi-Occupied Arabia). We are opening up Iraq to the otherside world and its natural allies at the same time we further force Iran into the great-power spotlight. Huzzah!

The rest of Cole's post descend into lazy Marxism, which I don't have time for right now.

Update: But Collounsbury does.

09:25 Posted in Iran, Iraq, Juan Cole | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: basra, cole, marxism

Friday, March 11, 2005

Thank You For a Job Well Done

"Exodus 2," by John, Iro's Shit, 9 March 2005, http://iroshit.blogdrive.com/archive/26.html.

Not a philosopher, not a pundit, just a soldier in Iraq I know

anyway last night being my last night in iraq, i was luck enough to go to a "dance performance" by some chicks called the "purffect angles" all former pro-football cheerleaders and all super hot!!
seeing beautiful women dancing in really tight clothing on stage makes me remember what im fighting for. at the end, we got to go on stage and they sit on your lap and they take a picture, i have to get that sent, me surrounded by 5 super hot women, it was good. i had them laughin too, when i want to be i can be such a pimp, i should let that side out more


The least you deserve. Thank you for serving.

20:00 Posted in Blogosphere, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: appreciation, thanks

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Scaled GDPs and Debts v. Cole

"A Less Super Superpower," by Jonathan Schell, The Nation, http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=2235, 21 March 2005 (on Tom Dispatch 2 March 2005).

"US Military Deaths reach 1500; 19 Iraqis Killed," by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/03/us-military-deaths-reach-1500-19.html, 3 March 2005.

I've added a section, which should appear both here, technorati, and maybe even del.icio.us. He is too unique, powerful, and controversial a blogger to be eternally relegated to the blogosphere section.

In a dazzlingly honest Leftist post, Tom Engelhardt quotes Mr. Schell as saying

Measured by Hobbes's test, the superpower looks less super. Its military has been stretched to the breaking point by the occupation of a single weak country, Iraq. . The United States has dramatically failed to make progress in its main declared foreign policy objective, the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction: While searching fruitlessly for nuclear programs in Iraq, where they did not exist, it temporized with North Korea, where they apparently do exist, and now it seems at a loss for a policy that will stop Iran from taking the same path. The President has just announced that the "end of tyranny" is his goal, but in his first term the global democracy movement suffered its greatest setback since the cold war -- Russia's slide toward authoritarianism.


Dr. Cole catches the meme

This weakness, in my view, derives from the relative strength of European and East Asian economies, the indebtedness of the US to foreign creditors, and the mobilization of the masses in less developed countries, such that they can no longer be controlled in the old colonial ways (European colonialism depended crucially on the peasantry being isolated, illiterate and relatively apolitical). As for economic strength, Matthew Connelly at Columbia University has argued persuasively that the US used threats of denying France loans to get DeGaulle to accept the decolonization of Algeria. The US now cannot use such a tool, since we owe enormous sums to foreign governments.


While we should save more, are we really close to an Algeria / Suez Moment?

To see if we are at risk from debt power, I built a spreadsheet using data from Wikipedia and the CIA. I looked at three numbers in particular: the size of the world's economies in nominal dollars (because debt is in nominal dollars), the size of those states' debts, and the size of those states' debt / gdp ratio. Because the question concerns relative power, I scaled these numbers so that the greatest economy would have a scaped gdp of 100%, the greatest debtor would have a scaled debt of 100%, etc.

Visually

medium_scaled_gdp_and_debt_small.jpg


The United States it the world's greatest economy, with a nominal gdp more than twise the size of its friend Japan. America carries a large scaled nominal debt, about a tenth greater than Japan. But America's debt, scaled against other nations and its own gdp, is puny.

We should invest more, both at home and abroad. Consumerism and wasteful government spending are worrisome. But Schell's and Cole's chicken-littleisms are unfounded.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Forcing Common Interests With Iran

"Groceries and Election Results...," by river, Baghdad Burning, http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2005_02_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#110872871401791299, 18 February 2005.

The possibly-defunct Riverbend is skeptical of the Iranian leanings of the Iraq's popular new government

“And is Iran so bad?” He finally asked. Well no, Abu Ammar, I wanted to answer, it’s not bad for *you* - you’re a man… if anything your right to several temporary marriages, a few permanent ones and the right to subdue females will increase. Why should it be so bad? Instead I was silent. It’s not a good thing to criticize Iran these days. I numbly reached for the bags he handed me, trying to rise out of that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me when the results were first made public.

...

Is anyone surprised that the same people who came along with the Americans – the same puppets who all had a go at the presidency last year – are the ones who came out on top in the elections? Jaffari, Talbani, Barazani, Hakim, Allawi, Chalabi… exiles, convicted criminals and war lords. Welcome to the new Iraq.

Ibraheim Al-Jaffari, the head of the pro-Iran Da’awa party gave an interview the other day. He tried very hard to pretend he was open-minded and that he wasn’t going to turn the once-secular Iraq into a fundamentalist Shia state but the fact of the matter remains that he is the head of the Da’awa party. The same party that was responsible for some of the most infamous explosions and assassinations in Iraq during the last few decades. This is the same party that calls for an Islamic Republic modeled like Iran. Most of its members have spent a substantial amount of time in Iran.

Jaffari cannot separate himself from the ideology of his party.

Then there’s Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He got to be puppet president for the month of December and what was the first thing he did? He decided overburdened, indebted Iraq owed Iran 100 billion dollars. What was the second thing he did? He tried to have the “personal status” laws that protect individuals (and especially women) eradicated.


Ignoring the fact that SCIRI wants an Iranian-style Guardian Council while Dawa is quietest, these American-Iraqi-Iranian common interests are great news.

I've mentioned the Iraq War's objective of forcing common interests with Iran. Iran is a cynical and realistic power, and Bush is wisely building a natural alliance with the future democratic government.

Around the dial

medium_persian_neighborhood_small.jpg



  • Pakistan is a failing nuclear state whose core competency is causing trouble. From potentially ending Indian demand for Middle East oil (by provoking a nuclear war) to incitement of anti-Shia violence, Islamabad is trouble. It is trouble for both Tehran and Washington.

  • Afghanistan is a weak state and should be kept that way. "Strong" Afghan states tend to be run by Pashtuns who join their Paki brothers in killing foreigners (Russians, Shia, and Americans being favorite targets).

  • Turkmenistan is a crazy Stalinist dictatorship. Iran has a history with Stanlists regimes -- it fought an eight year war with Ba'athi Iraq.

  • Russia and the Caucuses answer the age old question: "What happens when violent, fanatical extremists encounter a violent, decaying empire?" Salafists and the Russian Army have joined together in destroying Chechnya and retarding peace efforts in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Iran fought a war against Taliban Afghanistan in the 1990s - it does not need a string of failed states to its northwest in the 2000s.

  • Iran's enlightened ethnic policies have kept its Kurds relatively happy, and led to natural ties with Kurds across the Turkish and Iraqi frontiers. Kurds are also military allies of the United States and Britain since the 199s0.

  • Likewise, Shia Iraq is an ally of both America and Iran. The American dream of democracy and the Iranian dream of Shia rule combine in Iraq as nowhere else (except Iran itself). If either party gets bored of the relationship, the Salafists-Ba'athists will make sure they remember.

  • Across the Shia Gulf, the occupied nation of Eastern Arabia suffers under the Wahabi yoke. The Saudis' "hanging around guys" cause trouble for us, too.


The Bush Administration's successful dance with Iran has been incredible. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Arab Street

medium_anti_occupation_march_lebanon.jpg
Anti-Occupation Protest in Lebanon


medium_anti_terrorist_march_iraq.jpg
Anti-Terrorism Protest in Iraq

04:05 Posted in Greater Syria, Iraq | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: lebanon

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fallujah Marine Cleared

"Not enough evidence to charge marine in point-blank Fallujah shooting: report," AFP, http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/focusoniraq/2005/February/focusoniraq_February173.xml§ion=focusoniraq, 24 February 2005 (from Roth Report).

Great news. The Marine who helped retake Fallujah and, horror of horrors, killed an enemy who played possum, won't be charged.



A US marine, captured on film killing a wounded Iraqi at point blank range during November’s assault on Fallujah, will not be formally charged due to lack of evidence, according to a report Wednesday on CBS News.

A Marine spokesman, Captain Dan McSweeney, told AFP, however, he had been informed by the Navy Criminal Investigative Services, which is investigating the killing, that “the case is still very much open.”

The November 13 shooting occurred during a search of a mosque in a widely broadcast incident that sparked worldwide outrage and was described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as a demonstration of “utter contempt for humanity.”

In the incident, a trooper raised his rifle and shot point blank at an apparently unarmed, wounded Iraqi who was slumped against one of the mosque walls, in footage captured by an embedded camaraman working for the NBC network.

Although the insurgents were found to be unarmed, investigators said the one the Marine believed he had seen moving could have been reaching for a weapon.


The rifleman was withdrawn from combat pending the results of the investigation, but the graphic footage enraged many, months after the scandal over US troops’ abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison.

CBS News said Wednesday it had learned that military investigators had concluded insufficient evidence existed to formally charge the marine.

The raid on Fallujah, part of an attempt at reclaiming key lawless enclaves across the country ahead of January elections, has been the largest military operation in Iraq since the March 2003.


Of course, the news comes from CBS, so maybe it's based on fake documents.

07:10 Posted in Iraq, Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: fallujah, marines